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Cash vs. annuity: Which payout should you pick if you win Mega Millions, Powerball jackpots?

(NEXSTAR) — Lottery players nationwide have the chance at nearly $2 billion as the Mega Millions and Powerball jackpots continue to roll. If you’re lucky enough to win one (or both), you’ll face a big decision: how would you like your winnings paid out?

As of Tuesday, the Mega Millions jackpot is estimated at $1.12 billion, the fifth-largest in game history and the eighth-largest in U.S. history behind the $1.337 billion Mega Millions jackpot won in Illinois two years ago.

Meanwhile, without a winner in Monday’s drawing, the Powerball jackpot has reached an estimated $865 million. That makes it the fifth-largest in Powerball history behind a $1.08 billion jackpot won in California last year.

The odds of winning either jackpot are steep — 1 in 302.6 million for Mega Millions, 1 in 292.2 million for Powerball — but if you overcome those odds and secure the record-setting jackpots, there are a number of steps experts suggest following. That includes building your team — a financial advisor, a tax advisor and a lawyer are highly recommended — and keeping the ticket secure. 

Once you’re ready to come forward and claim your prize, you’ll have a big decision to make: take the annuity option or the cash payout.

The annuity option is the dollar amount you’ll most frequently see advertised when it comes to Mega Millions and Powerball. For the former, it’s currently $1.12 billion, and for the latter, $865 million. If you select this payout method, you’ll receive a one-time payment, followed by 29 annual payments that increase by 5% each time until they reach the amount you won.

The cash option — $537.5 million for Mega Millions, $416.1 million for Powerball — signifies the amount of money game officials have determined is needed to fund the annuity option.

If you want your winnings right away, you’ll want to select the cash option, but if you want more money in the end, you may prefer the annuity option.

So how do you know what’s best for you?

“Most people take the lump sum because they want the money, they want to control it,” Robert Pagliarini, president and chief financial advisor for Pacifica Wealth Advisors and author of “The Sudden Wealth Solution,” previously told Nexstar. “I honestly think most people are probably better off taking the annuity.”

As mentioned, the annuity option means you’ll receive a check every year with another, slightly larger portion of your lottery winnings. While that annual allowance may sound annoying to a newfound jackpot winner, it can also help protect you. 

For example, let’s say you mess up with your winnings one year. Maybe you spend it unwisely, make some poor purchases, or gift too much away. If you had selected the cash option, “there’s no do-over, there’s no reset,” Pagliarini explained.

“But with the annuity, you get to redeem yourself every single year,” he added. “It might take a few years, it might take five or six years, but eventually you’ll figure it out.”

You’ll also see more taxes are withheld if you select the lump sum cash payout. Every state is required to withhold 25% in a federal lottery tax, and after additional withholdings, you’ll be losing roughly 37% of your jackpot to taxes. Then, depending on where you live, you’ll see even more withheld for state taxes.

However, Jeremy Keil, a financial adviser from Wisconsin, previously told the Associated Press that “there’s no bad choice” when it comes to the payout you select. Keil said Powerball’s annuity assumes a 4.3% investment gain of the jackpot’s cash prize.

“If you think you can beat the 4.3%, you should take the cash,” Keil said. “If you don’t, take the annuity.”

Matt Chancey, an investment adviser in Tampa, Florida, also urged winners to understand that if advisers earn a percentage from the investment of all that money, they have a financial stake in how the money is paid out and should be clear about any potential conflict. He said talented investors probably could make more money than paid through an annuity, but there is risk and advisers need to be open about their potential gain depending on the jackpot winners’ choices.

Regardless of what option you pick, if you win either jackpot, Pagliarini recommends building your team of experts, signing the ticket and keeping it secure, and “make [your payout] decision as fast as you possibly can, in a way where you feel very comfortable about the decision.” 

Mega Millions and Powerball tickets are $2 each. Mega Millions drawings are held every Tuesday and Friday at 11 p.m. ET, while Powerball drawings are held every Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday at 10:59 p.m. ET.

Jeremy Tanner and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Source: Fox 8 News Channel

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